Michele Mosca is co-founder and Deputy Director of the Institute for Quantum Computing, and a founding member of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.
He’s got a front row seat to all things quantum computing and encryption. The area is still in a nascent phase but it already has the potential to solve a number of problems for high-level organisations that need to crunch lots of numbers and transmit data securely.
Quantum encryption relies on the quirky world of quantum physics to transmit cryptographic keys used for decoding messages. If a key should be intercepted en route, it changes as soon as it’s “captured” and can no longer be used. It sounds like sci-fi, but it’s one of the tenets of the quantum world — to observe something is to change it. There’s a quick primer on the topic here if you want to learn more.
These technologies likely won’t be only the concern of the elite forever.
Business Insider asked Mosca how and when quantum encryption would mostly like affect ordinary users. He told us that it could solve the “100-year” problem of finding ways to keep data safe from advances in technology that are a century or more out:
Firstly, we have important instances where we want our information to be secure for a long time, including medical and legal data … In the insurance industry, I understand that some personal information is supposed to be protected for over 100 years. The long term confidentiality of industrial, government and military secrets also has implications for our economy and standard of living, and security.
And if our current cryptographic systems should somehow prove fallible, quantum encryption is more than capable to step in and fill the gaps.
[Secondly,] even in cases where we are not so concerned about long-term confidentiality, we depend heavily on cyber-systems for our safety and standard of living. If these systems suddenly collapse because a cipher system we hoped was unbreakable turned out to be breakable (which can happen with a cipher that depends on an unproven assumption about the mathematical hardness of a problem), that will have a profound impact on our lives. [For example,] how can we do e-commerce if we can’t communicate securely online?
Mosca is describing quantum encryption as a superior means to make sure private data stays private, whether it’s your medical history or your credit card number.